Over $100 Million are Wasted on Fraudulent Display Ad Impressions Every Year in Australia

An original Datalicious investigation into the impact of ad fraud on marketing and advertising in Australia based on the analysis of over 1 million website visitors and their characteristics and behaviours across multiple partner websites.


To identify ad fraud, Datalicious used a combination of outlier detection algorithms to identify stacked or stuffed ads as well as semi-supervised learning algorithms to identify bot activity. The data analysis covered various different data points including the number of impressions, creative size and time of load as well as browsing behaviour, content type and time of browsing.

Types of Display Ad Fraud

Display ad fraud can be broken down into two major categories: Fraudulent ad impressions caused by ad stacking or pixel stuffing (ads that were never really served) and fraudulent website visitors caused by illegal bot activity (simulated users that do not really exist). Together, we estimate that these forms of ad fraud impact nearly 8% of all display ad impressions and account for over $100 million dollars of wasted advertising spend in Australia.

Ad Fraud Trends by Country

According to the last MRC figures, Australia was supposed to only have approximately 4-5% of ad fraud, however our data suggests that this is more around 7-8%. Given it is hard to directly compare the figures from these separate studies we cannot say that ad fraud in Australia doubled but it is probably safe to say that it is on the increase given the overall increase in opportunity for fraud (due to an increase in display spend) and that it is a problem that needs to be tackled.

While the overall percentage of ad fraud is still small, the resulting dollar value of budget wastage is already quite significant - and who really wants to spend a single cent on ads that are not being seen by real people? Marketers and media agencies need to start tracking the impact of ad fraud.